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Current Affairs

Regulatory molecules generation in plants

Date: 16 February 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Researchers from National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, and SASTRA University, Thanjavur, have discovered how small molecules called microRNAs are made in plants.

 

Background

MicroRNAs are small molecules, about 21 nucleotides long, and help in controlling the levels of proteins in the cell. This finding makes it much easier for studying processes in plants.

 

Details

  • All aspects of growth and development of plants, whether it is initiation of flowering or control and distribution of hormones in response to external stress, are regulated at various levels in the cell.

  • Such regulation is always mediated by proteins. At one level, regulation of the processes is about controlling the amount of specific proteins being made in the cells. This is achieved by the microRNAs.

  • In order to decrease the level of a particular protein in specific cells, the microRNAs destroy the messenger RNA molecules that help with the production of that specific protein in the cell.

  • The microRNA molecules do this by cutting down that particular messenger RNA thereby destroying it. This process is called the silencing of the messenger RNA.

  • The best way to study the effect of a gene in the DNA is to silence or “knockout” the gene. Knocking out a gene does not mean removing the entire gene.

  • In knocking out processes, those RNA that induce the gene to produce proteins are destroyed or their levels are reduced by the microRNA.

MicroRNA structure

  • The team has found that microRNAs have a high occurrence of the bases G and C and this helps their formation and abundance in the cells.

  • Further, there is a position-specific bias for these bases in the microRNAs. This is recognised by a specific RNA-binding protein.

  • The present way to silence genes is by introducing artificial microRNA which binds to the messenger RNA of interest and prevents the production of protein. This is done in a deliberate process of trial and error.

  • Researchers try out several artificial microRNAs, introduce them into plants one by one in a cumbersome process and then pick the best one which can remove most messenger RNAs of the gene of interest.